E.J. Liddell is expected to play for Ohio State against UCLA in CBS Sports Classic

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Dec 8, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Matt Zona (25)  goes up for a shot as Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion.

After missing the last two games with mononucleosis, Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell is expected to play in Saturday's game against UCLA in Cleveland.

More:Ohio State's E.J. Liddell out indefinitely with non-COVID illness

The news, which was first reported Saturday morning by CBS Sports, was confirmed to The Dispatch by Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann.

Friday afternoon, Holtmann spoke with reporters in a video call while on one of two team buses headed toward the CBS Sports Classic that will see Kentucky face North Carolina at 2 p.m. followed by Ohio State’s game with the Bruins. The plan as of then was to see how Liddell would handle practice later that evening.

“We’re going to evaluate him today in practice and see,” Holtmann said of Liddell. “I do think he’s making improvements in how he’s feeling and his fatigue. I do think there’s some improvement there for sure. The final word will be if he’s able to practice at all.”

More:BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast | Recapping Ohio State’s Purdue loss, talking schedule changes

Liddell, the team’s leading scorer, has missed the last two games. Without him, Ohio State held off Cleveland State last Sunday, 67-61, at home before falling, 67-60, at Purdue on Wednesday. Liddell was present and in the team seating area for both games.

So, too, has been graduate transfer Seth Towns, who is still yet to make his debut after undergoing knee surgery last January while at Harvard. Towns hasn’t played in the last two years. Wednesday, he went through a skills workout with assistant coach Ryan Pedon at Mackey Arena before the rest of his teammates arrived.

“I can’t tell you an exact timeline,” Holtmann said. “I think it could be certainly in a month or it could be in a couple days. It’s just, we’re taking it game by game with how he feels after certain practices.”

Senior forward/center Kyle Young, who left Mackey Arena with a walking boot on his right leg, will play and likely wear the boot after games this season after dealing with leg injuries during the last two seasons.

“The boot for Kyle is continued monitoring of his lower-leg concerns,” Holtmann said. “He’s had some ankle soreness. Just really trying to monitor that. He is sore at times in his lower legs after games, but that boot is just to monitor that. I think you’ll see that throughout the year.”

Sophomore center Ibrahima Diallo, who suffered a concussion during the Cleveland State game, is out.

Recent addition Meechie Johnson Jr. is accompanying the team for the game to be played near his hometown of Garfield Heights. He won’t play, though, as he continues to acclimate to the program after graduating early from high school and joining Ohio State last Saturday.

He did not make the trip to Purdue.

“The only reason he did not travel before was he was getting a round of testing that he has to get,” Holtmann said. “He had all the testing that took place, but now he’s got a good part of those out of the way so he’s able to take this trip.”